Obama Does Have Foreign Policy Experience

In response to my last blog, my friend and blogging inspiration said people have complained to her that Barack Obama does not have enough foreign affairs experience (she commented on The Great Geno’s Myspace page, where I also post all my blogs).  Since my blogs are usually ranting against somebody instead of for Obama, I would like to make three points on this subject.

Tell your friends.

First, Obama does have foreign affairs experience.  He currently is on the Senate Committee for Foreign Affairs, as well as the Committee for Homeland Security and the Committee for Veterans Affairs.  Further, he co-wrote the Lugar-Obama Act, which was a non-proliferation bill designed to keep anti-aircraft and other conventional weapons, as well as weapons of mass destruction, from being sold to terrorist organizations or other governments and organizations who would use them for nefarious purposes.  From my understanding, most of these come from the former soviet states, and either are or have the potential to be sold illegally to help further everything from terrorist efforts against the United States to the civil wars in Africa. 

Secondly, obviously he does not have the foreign affairs experience of McCain, but that does not mean he won’t be a better President.  Foreign policy is just one part of a President’s job.  He’s the head of the executive branch, whose primary responsibility is to enforce the law of the land, not to send us into war.  Remember when everybody thought George H.W. Bush was brilliant in foreign policy but failed to re-elect him because of his shortcomings in domestic policy?  And the President will be surrounded by top-notch guys (and gals).  Many people would argue most of the military decisions should be made by the Chiefs-of-Staff.  But it’s more about how effectively Obama will make his decisions based upon the information he’s given, using the people at his disposal.  I think Obama will surround himself with competent people, not “yes-men” who are rewarded for loyalty, and I feel very strongly that his ability to make sound decisions is impeccable.

Finally, Senators are the only people outside of federal executive offices who are allowed to deal with foreign policy decisions on an official basis.  Governors, by law, are explicitly forbidden from engaging in foreign policy.  This is a federal, Constitutional check on a governor’s power, and is not open to interpretation.  So, the last President we had who was a former senator was Nixon.  Since then, there have only been two Presidents who have fought in a war or had foreign policy experience; Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.  All the others; Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush W., were elected from governorships, did not serve in a war, and had no foreign policy experience.

So the point is, other than George H.W. Bush, Obama would actually be the most qualified to lead our country’s foreign policy than any President since Nixon/Ford.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Obama Does Have Foreign Policy Experience

  1. 1dumblonde

    And Nixon had an interesting foreign policy: secret war on Cambodia (hush up!), detente (brilliant but didn’t work), and China (honestly, great). Carter was a graduate of Annapolis and a naval officer; not all foreign policy involves war. He also had mixed successes and failures (the peace summit; the Iran hostage situation). To a large extent, foreign policy depends on the cooperation of the agencies under the president, something that explains Carter’s shortcomings, as he did not have the support of the military.

    I am not sure a couple of years on the Foreign Affairs committee is enough to claim foreign policy experience. I also don’t think it is a deal-breaker for the presidency. Once again, though, this is an interesting and informative post.

  2. thegreatgeno

    The thing that really irks me about the whole “Commander-in-Chief” thing is how some people (mostly on the conservative right) act like it’s the primary purpose of the President, when it’s just one of his (or her) duties. The Constitutional definition of the President is whom “the executive power shall be vested” in. Nowhere in the first section of the Second Article, where the President is defined, is foreign policy even brought up. And out of the six responsibilities given to the President in the second section, only twice is foreign policy brought up; once as Commander-in-Chief and the other to form treaties, which must be approved by the Senate. He (she) doesn’t even have the right to declare war. People are taking a peripheral, albeit very important, duty and making it the primary responsibility. But I digress . . .

    A few years on Congressional committees may not give someone a lot of experience, but it does help form a broad understanding of the basis of global events and nuances which would be instrumental in forming foreign policy as President. To this end, the only difference between Obama and Clinton is her eight years as first lady, to which there really hasn’t been any indication that she played anything resembling a substantive part in the foreign affairs. It would be like the Secretary of Health and Human Services arguing that they were more suited to be Commander-in-Chief because they headed a cabinet. Besides, by all accounts George W. Bush spent a lot of time in his daddy’s White House.

    But the real point was that while most Presidents don’t have the foreign policy experience of John McCain, that doesn’t mean they will fail at foreign policy matters (or that McCain will succeed). Also, most of the people I know who are knocking Obama the hardest on this point are Republicans, so while the Reagan/W. argument may not work for a Clinton fan, hopefully it would make a GOP person pause for thought. (Though he did have more than Bill Clinton, as well.)

    There was an interesting article in Time about the overall experience of different Presidents relative to their successes. Obama has had more overall experience than some of our best Presidents, including Jackson, Lincoln, and both Roosevelts. You should check it out; even if you don’t want to give Obama the cred. it will help if you’re confronted with the issue from McCain supporters (there’s a really cool chart in the magazine, but it’s not on the website):

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1717926,00.html

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